Thirty years ago, producer and co-writer Bob Gale unveiled one of the most beloved film franchises of all time: the Back to the Future trilogy. In the three decades since their release, fans all over the world have thrilled to the time traveling exploits of Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and “Doc” Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) as they traverse the space-time continuum in a custom-built DeLorean.
But, while the films have endured, the Time Machine itself was running out of time. Plagued by decades of exposure to souvenir hunters, rodents and the elements, the cinema icon seemed destined for the junkyard. That is until a very passionate and dedicated group of “Future” enthusiasts decided to re-set the calendar back to 1985.
Part of the new “Back To The Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy” Blu-Ray package is the documentary, “OUTATIME: Saving the DeLorean Time Machine”, which details the story of the car and Time Machine builder Joe Walser efforts to return it to greatness.
I recently spoke with filmmaker Steve Concotelli about his new documentary and more in this exclusive interview.
James Wood: Have you always been a fan of the “Back To The Future” series?
Steve Concotelli: I have. I remember I was ten-years old when “Back To The Future” came out and it was the perfect age to fall in love with the movie. It had everything magic and sci-fi that a kid could desire.
JW: How did the restoration project and documentary begin?
SC: The restoration actually began before I came on board. Joe Walser is one of the best replica Time Machine builders in the world and he co-chaired the 2010 “We’re Going Back” event in Los Angeles, which was the 25th anniversary celebration of the series. Joe had gotten to know Bob Gale over the years and when Bob had the opportunity with Universal to restore the car, Joe was the first name on his list.
JW: Where did the idea for the documentary come from?
SC: I had known Joe for a while and my initial involvement was to help out in any way that I could. Joe asked me if I was a mechanic or a prop builder or if I knew anything at all about cars. I told him I wasn’t but I was really good at making movies. At the time, making the movie about the restoration was not on anyone’s radar, but I knew it would be a story that people would be interested in because it was something “Back To The Future” fans never knew. So my contribution to the restoration became making the movie.
JW: Why would Universal let the a cinematic icon like the DeLorean deteriorate over the years?
SC: There are several answers. At that time the movie was made, prop preservation wasn’t really done to the level that it’s done now. Today, all props go into archiving and are properly taken care of. Back then, props were typically just made for movies and then disposed of. It wasn’t until the late 80s that preservation became important. What’s interesting is that the Time Machine was one of the first props that a movie studio decided to save and show off to that world. And it was the fans love of the car that was the reason the car still existed at all.
JW: What were the expectations like going into the restoration project?
SC: There was certainly a level of doubt, but it wasn’t the matter of whether they could get it done in time. It was could they get it done in time based on the high expectations Joe had set. If they just took the car somewhere and had a few guys use Bondo and patch it up, they could have finished it in a few months. But Joe said “No!” It was going to be a complete frame off; every wire comes out and a complete restore. This was not a replica. It was THE car. So it had to be flawless.
JW: What types of challenges were involved in the restoration process?
SC: There were a lot of them, one being things going on and coming off numerous times. They just didn’t put stuff back on the car and it was done. It was always about taking parts off and making them better. Joe would have guys redoing parts many times to get them better. A specific example would be the flux bands. They’re the big bands that wrap around the car. They’re solid aluminum and to bend them into shapes takes hammers, mallets and patience. It took weeks to pound those into shape. It was blacksmith work and something you wouldn’t normally expect to do on a prop.
Watch the Trailer for “OUTATIME: Saving The DeLorean Time Machine” by Clicking Here!
JW: Were there also a lot of wins along the way?
SC: Absolutely. The best example is the time circuits. All of the electronics in the car now are computer controlled. For some history, the time circuits didn’t really work in the film. It was all movie magic. Nothing lit up or made sounds but Joe wanted them to actually work, so everything needed to be programmed. I remember the first time they installed the time circuits into the car and turned them on, fired them up and the sounds came out of the speakers. It gave you chills. It felt exactly like being in he movie.
JW: What did you enjoy most about the project? What gives you the most satisfaction?
SC: Aside from seeing the finished Time Machine, it’s telling a “Back To The Future” story that hasn’t been told before. This movie gives fans the chance to experience all of the hard work and labor of love that went into this restoration.
JW: What other projects are you working on?
SC: We’re working on completing an extended version of the documentary right now that will have its own separate release. It’s a complete restoration story of the Time Machine. If you liked the twenty-minute version, you’ll love the hour-long version. It’s more history, interviews and more in depth.
JW: What would you like fans to take away from watching this documentary?
SC: The restoration of the Time Machine happened because of Bob Gale’s love and dedication to the car. He really wanted to get it restored and Universal recognized the importance of it and embraced getting it done correctly. Then it was Joe and his attention to detail and his demand to do it right that helped bring the car back. Without any of those things, it never would have happened.
Back To The Future: 30th Anniversary Trilogy is available now on Blu-Ray and Digital HD